So, if you're in the neighborhood of ACT Theatre this Sunday evening, you should really check out Ghosty! Annex Theatre's spooky Hallowe'en extravaganza (I'll be the ghost in the aviator's helmet).
Plus, it's a fundraiser for Union Playhouse (Nee Union Garage, current home of Theatre Babylon and future home of Annex), so you just KNOW you want to help save one of Seattle's most versatile, valuable and vulnerable performance spaces.
Otherwise, the ghosts will haunt you long after the toll of Midnight on Sunday.
In Xanadu Did Kublai Khan A Stately Pleasure Dome Decree
NASA's Cassini/Huygens spacecraft made a close flyby of Saturn's largest moon, Titan yesterday, snapping off a phenomenal series of images of the only moon in our solar system with a measurable atmosphere. When the full series of images is downloaded later today, scientists will hopefully begin to answer some fundamental questions about Titan's structure, which may in turn lead to some further insight into Earth's early atmospheric formation.
The bright area on the right hand side has been designated "Xanadu" by Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists. The darker region to the left is of (currently) unknown composition, but it theorized to possibly be a lake of frozen methane or ethane. The white patches at the bottom are thought to be clouds made up of similar gaseous elements.
In January, Cassini will eject the European Space Agency built Huygens probe, which will make a controlled descent into Titan's atmosphere, hopefully answering further questions about its composition.
Another birthday approaching, number 44 if you're counting (and next Monday if you're the card sending or libation buying sort). It's certainly not one of those "milestone" celebrations, like 18 or 21 or 30 or even 50, but still, with each click over of the natal odometer I keep coming round to the inevitable conclusion that -- statistically-speaking -- I've got more miles of blacktop behind me than ahead.
It's not something I'm prone to be maudlin about; I come from a rather long-lived family (three of four grandparents still alive-and-kicking in their early 80's to mid 90's), and despite the history of congenital heart problems that run in my family, I'm probably in a lot better shape at this age than was my dad or grandfather, both of whom are thankfully still with us. So, it's not completely out of the quesiton that all things considered, I've realistically got another 45 - 50 years of mileage in me before some major organ craps out beyond repair.
Some days though it's hard to rid myself of the nagging suspicion that somewhere I took a turn that sent me off in a direction I never thought I'd go, and that suddenly I'm sitting here by the side of the road staring at some Rand-McNalley Atlas that clearly indicates I'm nowhere near where I thought I'd be by now.
I guess it's just that I always imagined my life would be somewhat more conventional than it's turned out, one accompanied by all the trappings of what passes for "normalicy": marriage, kids, mortgages, etc., etc. So, when I look around and realize how many aspects of my life are decidedly not of the norm, I have to admit I feel a bit ambivalent. On the one hand, I'm still plugging away at a vocation that, despite a recent (hopefully temporary) malaise, nevertheless seems to maintain some forward momentum. I've got a passle of good friends, although not perhaps as many truly close ones as I'd like, but an otherwise great group of people. I seem to have dug out some small niche for myself in my chosen community. I have a decent job that pays well, even if it's frequently not as intellectually challenging as I'd prefer, and I've lived a rather unconventional lifestyle over the years, that while perhaps not as on-the-edge as some, certainly falls outside of what most people experience. But, my romantic attachments over the years haven't been terribly successful (with one notable exception), and there are times when I think I really should have been able to make something more of myself; that I haven't always lived up to my full potential.
Still, it seems like there's an awful lot yet ahead of me, that my life isn't anywhere near the point of beginning some slide into that long dark goodnight. Maybe it's having played people older than myself for so long in my acting career, but getting older doesn't really scare me; the only real disturbance about the process is that there aren't all that many people I know close enough to my own age with whom to share the experience. How do you get 20 or 30-somethings to relate to the onset of late middle-age and impending geriatry? Not that I'm complaining about hanging out with 20 and 30 year-olds mind you, if nothing else it causes me to forget at times that I'm not 35 anymore myself.
What's the old saw, "You're only as young as you feel"? Well, for one day I think I'll be like those kids in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", when they stick the Ferrari up on blocks and run it in reverse trying to get the odometer to wind itself back to where they started. I may pay for it on Tuesday, but that's somewhere up ahead in the road, isn't it?
Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboaratory in Pasadena, CA have made the first extensive map of fluxuations in
Earth's gravity field, providing proof of "space warping", one of the keystones to Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.
Two earth-orbiting satellites, part of the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) Project have mapped the gravimetric fluxuations as part of a five year study to determine whether the Earth affects local space-time via an effect known as "frame dragging" (the article provides a good layman's explanation). One of the things noted in the article is that physical features (i.e. mountains, oceans, etc.) seem to have some bearing on the amount of localized drag, which makes sense, given that there is going to be significant differences in mass, which of course is a function of gravimetric strength.
Now, what's interesting about this image is that it clearly shows above normal gravitation in very specific locations on the globe, including around the Pacific Rim, which upon closer inspection corresponds exactly to what geologists refer to as "The Ring Of Fire", a region of significant volcanic activity:
I'm no physicist nor geologist or vulcanologist, but even I can figure out that hat this seems to indicate is that there may be a connection between volcanic activity and gravimetric displacement; that is, gravity tends to be slightly higher where volcanic activity is present, and I guess the question this begs is, "why?" Magma isn't necessarily denser than solid matter, but it is generally under tremendous pressure; the grinding together of continental shelves for example, where one mantle is subsumed beneath another (as occurs just off our own coast), creates a tremendous amount of pressure, which in effect turns solid rock molten. So, would that possibly mean there may be some correlation between gravity fluxuations and an increase in dynamic pressure, all other things being more-or-less equal?
I really don't know, but it's an interesting speculation...
Remember how in college, if the prof was more than 15 minutes late to class, you could leave? (I don't know if it was a real rule, and I think I may have actually only done this once or twice in six years of under and postgraduate studies.) I wish they had a similar rule for the office: if your extension doesn't ring for, say more than an hour, you get to go home early.
Besides, if I continue to sit here with nothing to do, the plate of chocolate chip cookies over in accounting is going to draw me away from my desk -- again.
Now that I've pretty well settled in to my new digs, I've managed to eke out a teensy bit of time from my normally busy schedule to at least make some brief sojourns around my new 'hood, which is officially known as "Squire Park".
A Brief, Incomplete List Of Things Close-By (Within A 3 Block Radius):
1 Coffee house
1 Coffee stand
1 Post Office
1 Ethiopian Restaurant
1 Tailor's Shop
1 Ethiopian Community Center
1 Cajun Restaurant
1 Chinese Herbalist
2 Gas Stations
1 Penske Truck Rental Location
1 Bank (not mine, unfortunately)
1 Convenience Store
1 Liquor Store
2 Hair Salons
1 Barber Shop
1 Precious Metals Dealer
1 Cinema 1 Pilates Studio
1 Boxing Gym 1 Cheesesteak Restaurant
1 99-Cent Store
If I go out to about a 6 block radius, I can include:
1 Full-Service Grocery Store
1 Hamburger Stand 1 Deli/Cafe
1 Chicken Shack (The World Famous Ezell's)
1 Elementary School
1 High School
1 Community Swimming Pool
3 More Churches
1 More Hair Salon
1 Music Store
1 2nd Hand Store
And beyond that I'm on the southern Fringes of Capitol Hill with it's plethora of bars, music clubs, fringe theatres, galleries, restaurants, arts venues, car dealerships, Trader Joe's -- you name it.
Plus, the #2 bus will take me to within about eight block of my office, or with one transfer to the #24/#33 to right across the street.
Maybe it's the "anxiety" of being in a new environment, or maybe it's because I've been so busy, but whatever the reason my sleeps cycle this past week has been all over the map. Went to bed at 10:00 last night and woke up at 2:30 this morning with a case of insomnia (something that has been occuring periodically for about the last year or so -- usually happens about once a month for no reason whatsoever), and when by 4:00 a.m. I was still tossin'-an'-turnin' decided there was just no point and got up.
In a way, insomnia can be very productive. I made a cup of coffee, turned on NPR, organized some old bills, receipts, bank statements, unpacked and shelved the last box of books, put some carpet pads down under the kitchen rugs, fixed lunch, took a shower, put away last nights washed dishes, all before heading out the door at about 6:15. Caught the #2, which dropped me off on lower Queen Anne right behind the #15, which I hopped on for a short 10 block jaunt up Mercer, and was in the office before 7:00 a.m. (My boss was already here.)
I'm hoping the restlessness is just a sign of my brain and body trying to wrap itself around the new living situation, and that it'll calm down in the next few days, because I really don't want to go through this for an extended period of time.
Otherwise, I think I've gotten the place whipped fairly well into shape, although there are still finishing touches I'd like to accomplish at some point -- art work or some suitable wall things would be nice. But, at least the place is liveable. Spent a small fortune (at least by my extremely modest standards) on new kitchen items, including a new microwave, so I'm actually able to cook, store and reheat meals. Because I wasn't anticipating having to spend the extra $$, some of the items I purchased weren't even close to top-of-the-line, but I did the best I could given my limitations: the cookware is all stainless steel (Farberware, not exactly my preferred choice, but at least I didn't demean myself by purchasing the aluminum, even if it was non-stick), and I could only afford a Henckel starter set (3 knives, but I just can't drop $300 on a decent set like what I had before), and I passed on the 1960's all chrome SpeedQueen mixer, opting instead for a 1950's chrome industrial bar blender (Hopefully, the mixer will still be available at the consignment store next month). Chrome and stainless steel -- my kitchen will be very bright and shiny!
The various-and-sundry electrical gadgets and gizmos: TV, VCR, stereo, computer, and wireless headphones have been plugged in and are all in working order -- pretty impressive considering this stuff has sat unused in storage for 3 1/2 years. There's no TV reception in the basement, but I've got enough videos that I haven't watched recently to keep me occupied for at least several months.
I'm still hoping to get rid of a few items -- hopefully one more large bookcase and the smaller of my two filing cabinets -- but the actual organization of books, scripts, files and whatnot is something that can be done on grey, raining winter evenings, which we will have in spades for the next three or four months at least, so it's not high up on the priority list at the moment.
I have to say, the place is beginning to feel like "home", and it's reached a point where I can have friends over without having to resort to the inevitable, "sorry about the mess -- just moved in" excuse.
The cats went over to Ravenshead last night, although being cats they were not at all happy about making the move. Aurora has left some marks that will take a few days to heal, and Jenny kept up the most pathetic sounding whine for the entire 15 minute drive (having only one cat carrier, I made two trips). Still, there was food, water and litter box awaiting their arrival, and by the time I went to bed last night, both had settled down considerably.
Unfortunately, being cats, they kept up a veritable marathon of jumping up and down on-and-off the bed for most of the night, so once again I'm short on sleep.
Tempers were flaring this morning when both tried to claim the bathroom, and Aurora at least seems to be a bit off her feed (Jenny, pirate that she is, was more than happy to abscond with the extra kibble). Still, they seem to be transitioning much better than anticipated, and assuming they haven't clawed the furniture to shreds by the time I get home tonight with their "scratching hamper" (their favored - and from my perspective prefered clawing device on the boat), things should settle into some semblence of normalcy by the weekend.
If you're a space-geek like me, 4 October is going to carry a great deal of meaning from now on.
It's ironic to a degree that defies rational understanding: on the same day Brian Binnie wins the X Prize by piloting Spaceship One on it's record setting flight into space (on the 47th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik no less), one of the pioneering "star voyagers" of Project Mercury should leave us. Gordon Cooper was the sixth and last of the Original Seven Mercury astronauts to complete a mission (the seventh, Deke Slayton had been grounded due to irregular heart rhythms), completing 22 orbits in "Faith 7" in May of 1963.
Chances are my dad sat me down in front of an old black-and-white television somewhere in the outskirts of Cheyenne to watch the liftoff, as he claims to have done with the earlier Mercury shots. I still remember these moments with a sort of clarity, and there's a good likelihood these indelible moments etched itself on my synapses as some of my earliest cognizant memories. I can quite easily conjur up the image of a slender, needle shaped object rising on a plume of cotton candy smoke, but it's one I've seen repeated so many times during the course of my life that I have to honestly wonder whether these are actual memories, or merely an approximation of what I think I remember.
Two years later Cooper and rookie astronaut Charles "Pete" Conrad spent a grueling eight days inside their Gemini 5 capsule, on a 122-orbit mission that covered more than three million miles, proving that it was physically possible for men to travel the relatively short distance of 500,000 miles to the moon and back. It was the last time he flew in space, although he remained on active duty until 1970, by which time the public had lost interest in the Apollo program, and Congress had axed the last three planned missions, effectively ending his shot at ever setting foot on the moon.
So, now of the Original Seven only three remain: John Glenn, Scott Carpenter (the only one I ever met personally), and Wally Schirra. Gus Grissom of course died during the tragic Apollo 1 fire in 1967. Slayton, who finally got his ride as commander of the 1972 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project died in 1993, and Al Shepard, the first American into space went in 1998.
Given the coincidence of today's events it's not hard to imagine that while Brian Binnie was making his historic flight this morning, the line from an old movie might have come to mind.
"Who's the best pilot you ever saw?"
Seeing the curve of the blue earth highlighted against the velvet black of outer space, Binnie might have looked at his own sun burnished face reflected in one of Spaceship One's port windows, smiled to himself and thought,
Exhausted. That's the only word for it. Between finishing out Hothouse, and moving this weekend I'm just wiped out.
Basically, everything went fine, got some help from a few of the Annex Regulars (Yay! Tom, BenLau, Molly, Scotto & Dante!) between shows on Saturday to move the U-Haul truckload of furniture, clothing & odds & ends into the new space (and special Yay! to Meaghan for giving me the matinee off to load the truck!), then spent yesterday afternoon shoving things around until they fit, opening boxes, organizing books, doing laundry, cleaning, and getting rid of a few things that I really don't need any more. Most everything fits into my tiny quarters, although with the built-in bookcase, I'm planning to get rid of some home-built shelving. And once I get around to compressing and consolidating 12 years worth of files, theatre programs, scripts, and whatnot I'll probably be able to live without one of my two filing cabinets. That should make the bedroom space a bit "full", but liveable. Maybe I'll even be able to squeeze in that reading chair I'm still planning to track down.
Despite the loss of some crucial items, I managed to stay fairly close to my budget on the move, even with the additional purchase $200 worth of kitchenware and bedding. But, now I have new glasses, cookware, utensils, flatware, pillows, etc. And dear Dawn presented me with an early birthday present (after pulling a slight practical joke on my tired, unprepared self) in the form of a down comforter. There are still a few items I could use (first and foremost a small vacuum), but nothing that can't wait. Still have a bus load of stuff that needs to go in, plus some items from the boat to move over (including the cats), and on Saturday, I'll be getting some additional items, courtesy of SGNP (Yay! Bread makers!). Hopefully by next week I'll have more-or-less put the finishing touches on my new digs.
Spent my first night there last night, although I must say it wasn't nearly as restful as I had hoped, given that I was sleeping on a new mattress, in a new space, with lots of new noises (thermostats clicking, heaters cooling, refrigerators fridging, and the like), as well as the general stress of dealing with new circumstances, with the result being that I probably only got about 3 - 4 hours of actual sleep. And this week is a full-tilt boogie of meetings (tonight) and theatre-going (Tuesday through Saturday), so I won't be spending much time there this week.
Add the name of Brian Binnie to the slowly growing list of "commercial astronauts", with his X Prize winning flight this morning. And hats off to Burt Rutan, Paul Allen and everyone at Scaled Composites for opening the door for the rest of us.
Now, if I can just scrape up enough for that deposit check to Virgin Galactic.
Well, St. Helens finally gave off her mini "burp" at just after 12:00 Noon PDT today (nice video footage here courtesy of KING TV & MSNBC.com). Geologists have been predicting an iminent eruption since earthquake activity began increasing several weeks ago. Compared to the 1980 cataclysm this is pretty much a non-event, probably due to some pressure from a reservoir of magma that has been slowly building up for the past six years or so.
Seismometers seem to be indicating a decrease in activity, so this may be as much as the mountain can give off for the foreseeable future, which is good news for anyone living in the vicinity, but for those of us who lived through "The Big One", it certainly brings back memories.